October: Beautyberry

With a name like beautyberry, how can you resist wanting this shrub in your landscape? The purple berries are so bright they practically glow from late September into winter (if the birds don't gobble them up first), and they pair perfectly with the chartreuse foliage at this time of year.

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

There are two species of beautyberry you'll find around here: one native to the southern U.S. from the east coast west to Texas, and one native to eastern Asia. The Asian species has somewhat darker, smaller leaves and is a little more cold-hardy, but other than that the two look very similar. Here in Indiana the Asian species is a safer bet for winter survival, but in a protected area the American species can do well. Even when the branches die back, the roots often survive and new growth will return in the spring. Fortunately this doesn't reduce flowering. In fact, it's not unusual to prune it back close to the ground in the late fall to keep the shrub more compact the next year. The small white flowers are nice, but they aren't the main focus on this shrub. It has a loose, spreading habit perfect for less structured designs or as a backdrop to more formal gardens.

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

Common Name: Beautyberry

Scientific Name: Callicarpa americana and Callicarpa dichotoma

Notable Varieties: 'Early Amethyst' (berries develop earlier), 'Issai' (especially abundant berries), 'Duet' (white leaf edges, white berries)

Light: full sun to light shade (more flowers and berries in full sun)

Size: 2-4' tall, 3-5' wide

Soil: C. dichotoma can tolerate some drought, C. americana tolerates clay soils

Blooms: small white flowers in mid to late summer

Other Notes: massing them can increase fruiting; cut back in winter for manageable habit and better fruiting; birds enjoy the berries; foliage is a medium green in the spring and summer, but becomes chartreuse in the fall

See other plants of the month.

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